Monday, October 7, 2013

Brooklyn Botanic Garden petition

Photo: Chris Kreussling


This post was published originally on September 20th. A phone call from the BBG this morning necessitates an update and a correction. Those are at the bottom of this original post:

Chances are - if you follow this blog on Facebook - you are already aware of the petition to restore science to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

The petition was started by fellow Brooklyn blogger and BBG member, Chris Kreussling (otherwise known as Flatbush Gardener). It is addressed to Scot Medbury, the dapper president of the BBG, a master of spin and of the strategic handshake.

Chris is very engaged in the Brooklyn gardening community, especially in terms of promoting the horticultural use of native plants.

Recently, the BBG's staff scientists were laid off. The herbarium was closed. The same herbarium that propagated plants used in the new, much-touted native garden. But - for me, at least -  the first serious alarm was sounded in 2010, when the BBG's current trend away from science and research began. The library was closed***, and so was the plant records department, which is the foundation of a serious garden.

Please read the petition to restore science to the BBG. It is well written, concise, and illuminating.

And then sign it. Whether you are in Brooklyn, or Cape Town, or Shanghai, or a small town in Georgia (this Georgia or that Georgia).

And when you have signed it please share it, on Facebook, Twitter, your own blogs and by email. It is gathering momentum, and must continue to do so.

Science is fundamental to a real botanic garden's work. And it is part of the BBG's mission statement, which has been flouted.

                                                                          _______

*** At 10.42AM on October 7th, 2013, I received a phone call from Sonal Bhatt, Vice President of Education at the BBG. We had not met or spoken, before.  

I have taught adult education classes at the BBG since 2011. 

Ms. Bhatt said that in the light of what I have written about the BBG she would be "uncomfortable continuing our relationship." She insists that the library is open, the plant records department functioning and the herbarium open, too. Ms. Bhatt said, in response to my question, that the opening hours are on the BBG website.

My understanding of the situation was based on conversations at the time with staff members at the BBG who are still employed (but wondering if they are next). 

                                                                          ______

12.33PM Correction and Update:

To recap - this is the paragraph in question: "Recently, the BBG's staff scientists were laid off. The herbarium was closed. The same herbarium that propagated plants used in the new, much-touted native garden. But - for me, at least -  the first serious alarm was sounded in 2010, when the BBG's current trend away from science and research began. The library was closed, and so was the plant records department, which is the foundation of a serious garden."

So I checked with a couple of people with close ties to the BBG (which I should have done before writing the original post) and this is what I have been told:

The Library is open - at least the Gardener's Resource Center part which is in the main building. The Science Library at 109 Montgomery Street is off-limits and that is where the heart of the library collection is kept. So to a large degree it is closed.

There are no library hours listed on the BBG website and an email asking what the hours were, was not answered.

The person in charge of plant records was laid off in 2010 and plant records was closed. She was able to keep her job because of union seniority but was moved over to the herbarium. Plant records was brought back a year ago - an online database is recently up and running and accessible from the BBG's website.

The herbarium. It is to all intents and purposes closed. Since the building is off-limits it cannot be accessed by researchers.  It will be put in some sort of storage. The New York Botanic Garden has offered publically to take care of aspects of the collection.
                                                                           ____

I apologize unreservedly for my error in stating that the entire library is closed, and for not verifying the current, changed status of the plant records.

The facts as stated in the petition itself - which I had no hand in writing or launching - are accurate. It still has my full support.

An Aside: I have promoted the BBG positively ever since 66 Square Feet was launched, in 2007. Six years of glowing posts and hundreds of pictures. Photos in the official BBG calendar, fundraising, volunteering, published articles. Many mentions in my recent book. I never received a phone call about all that.

I put days of preparation into my three-hour classes and paid for extra materials out of pocket. In that sense, the prospect of no longer being employed by the BBG represents neither real punishment nor financial hardship. My over-preparation for these classes drove the Frenchman nuts. But the prospect makes me sad, as I enjoyed them, and I love the garden.

It's over, though: today's phone call shook me. Literally. Good wake up call, all round.

Here is a tiny selection of my BBG posts, recalling happier times:

Let Them Eat Lotus
Gardens in the Mist
The Bluebell Wood
Pink at the BBG
Peonies
Magnolia Plaza
Roses at the BBG
Cherries in Fall
BBG Calendar Contest
The Greenest Block

7 comments:

  1. Post-Sandy last fall I heard a very interesting interview with one of the BBG scientists. She was the person responsible for collecting, cataloging, and advising on native plants. She was talking about how NY and NJ would be able to re-plant the right plants in the right places and rebuild the dunes and wild areas after the storm. It was very interesting, and i was so impressed that BBG was doing that sort of work.

    Of course, BBG and other like institutions must raise money. On this planet that's how it is, and apparently the current powers that be don't think that science is sexy. How sad that they have let the quest for the dollar blind them to the really importation part of "botanical". You'd hope that those who give a damn, and a dollar, would want BBG to do more than be pretty. (It's like smart girls versus pretty girls. The "best" girls are both.)

    Happy to sign. As BBG goes, so goes LGBG. Good luck.

    ReplyDelete
  2. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/23/nyregion/brooklyn-botanic-garden-defends-decision-to-suspend-science-program.html

    ReplyDelete
  3. If nothing else, they've verified the value of your voice. It's a shame really, you've only expressed dissent and dissatisfaction.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Sorry to hear it, Marie, but, quite frankly, it's their loss.

    ReplyDelete

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